curry favor

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Originally from a French poem Roman de Fauvel, written in the early 1300s; Fauvel was a conniving stallion, and the play was a satire on the corruption of social life. The name Fauvel points to the French fauve (chestnut, reddish-yellow, or fawn), another sense of fauve meaning the class of wild animals whose coats are at least partly brown, and the medieval belief that a fallow horse was a symbol of deceit and dishonesty. The phrase curry Fauvel, then, referred to currying (combing) the horse, and was altered (as folk etymology) by later speakers to curry favor.


  • (file)


curry favor (third-person singular simple present curries favor, present participle currying favor, simple past and past participle curried favor)

  1. (idiomatic) To seek to gain favor by flattery or attention.
    • 1854 August 9, Henry D[avid] Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor and Fields, →OCLC:
      [] always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offences; []
    • 1871–1872, George Eliot [pseudonym; Mary Ann Evans], chapter XVIII, in Middlemarch [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to IV), Edinburgh, London: William Blackwood and Sons, →OCLC, book (please specify |book=I to VIII):
      Other people would say so, and would allege that he was currying favor with Bulstrode for the sake of making himself important and getting on in the world.
    • 1896, Mark Twain [pseudonym; Samuel Langhorne Clemens], chapter 1, in Tom Sawyer, Detective:
      Poor old Uncle Silas—why, it’s pitiful, him trying to curry favor that way—so hard pushed and poor, and yet hiring that useless Jubiter Dunlap to please his ornery brother.
    • 1917, Upton Sinclair, The Profits of Religion [] [1]:
      And what of those thousands and tens of thousands who join the church because it is a part of the regime of respectability, a way to make the acquaintance of the rich, to curry favor and obtain promotion, to get customers if you are a tradesman, to extend your practice if you are a professional man?
    • 2017 October 2, Julia Ioffe, Franklin Foer, “Did Manafort Use Trump to Curry Favor With a Putin Ally?”, in The Atlantic[2]:
      [T]he full text of these exchanges, provided to The Atlantic, shows that Manafort attempted to leverage his leadership role in the Trump campaign to curry favor with a Russian oligarch close to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
    • 2019 May 5, Danette Chavez, “Campaigns are Waged On and Off the Game Of Thrones Battlefield (Newbies)”, in The A.V. Club[3], archived from the original on 28 January 2021:
      Unlike Sansa, Daenerys can’t rely on her family name to curry favor; unlike Jon or even Arya, she can’t regale the Northerners with tales of exploits, though that’s probably for the best when it comes to her “liberating” Yunkai and Meereen.

Related terms[edit]